Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Burnett, Christopher (LeRoy)
Burnett, Christopher (LeRoy), saxophonist, composer, arranger, educator; b.Olathe, KS, 2 November, 1955. As a youth, his father (Clifford, b. 1925) was a member of active military service. The fifth child in a family of nine children (Richard, b. 1943; Nathaniel, b. 1946; Joyce, b. 1949; Bonnie, b. 1952; Penny, b. 1957; Mary, b. 1958; Donnie, b. 1959; Keith, b. 1964), Burnett initially grew up living in France, northern Michigan, and Denver, Colorado (1955-1963) prior to their family relocating back home to the Kansas City area upon conclusion of his father's career with the military. By 1963, his family had settled in the small city-suburb of Paola, Kansas. He displayed an early natural aptitude for music that was first recognized by the Paola's Saint James A.M.E. Church Choir Director (Mrs. Nevada Rosbia), who also made him a regularly featured vocal soloist with the church's youth choir. His mother (b. Violet L. Jackson, 1924) always encouraged his participation and interest in music.
Burnett's first instrumental music influences include his eldest brother, Richard D. Pratt (professionally known as Richie Pratt). Pratt, an active professional drummer and composer, is also a veteran of professional collaborations with The New York Jazz Quartet (Sir Roland Hannah, Frank Wess, and George Mraz), The Junior Mance Trio, Broadway Musicals, and numerous other documented activities. Being twelve years Burnett's senior, Pratt was already fully established in his professional career. However, he consistently encouraged and even periodically monitored his younger brother's musical progress from New York, whenever he could.
Burnett's first formal instruction on woodwind instruments came from James R. Fuchs, a clarinetist and his school band director (Paola High School Band); and later, from Charles Molina, a local professional saxophonist and his private woodwind teacher. Burnett progressed rapidly as an instrumentalist. His saxophone quartet received the superior I rating at state music festival (Wilhoite, Gregg, Burnett, Vivers; KSHAA, 1974). Burnett also was a member of his high school's select vocal ensemble (Madrigal Singers, 1974) and eventually became recognized as clearly among the best musicians in his school music program.
Burnett's parents had divorced in 1970, just prior to his freshman year of high school. Financial resources beyond those necessary for meeting basic needs were not available during this period. His mother's salary as an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (Osawatomie State Hospital, 1965-1988) could not fund a college education in music after his graduation from high school in 1974. Undeterred, Burnett discovered an alternate route toward achieving his educational and music career goals. Therefore, he auditioned for and was technically accepted into the music programs of both, the US Air Force bands and the US Army bands. His initial motivation for joining a branch of military service was to simply earn educational benefits under the GI Bill, in order to eventually enter a music performance degree program at the university-level. Upon further consideration, he subsequently chose to enlist with the Army music program in July 1974. Burnett thrived working as a young professional musician, and enjoyed continually learning about music while still in the military music program.
He was awarded a commendation medal for reorganizing the band supply system, serving as a featured soloist in various ensembles, and for serving as the section leader for all saxophonists in the band. In 1977, he was offered acceptance into the Army Band Group Leader Course of Instruction (an advanced music course at the Armed Forces School of Music) just prior to the end of his initial military service contract term, and as an incentive to consider remaining with the Army music program. Since he had enjoyed previously studying at the military music school, Burnett decided to renew his contract and remain with the military bands for at least another term.
With that decision, the first major phases in both, his professional career and personal life also began to take shape. Upon completing the music course (July 1977), Burnett was assigned to an Army band in Germany. He met his wife (born Terri Anderson, 1955), who was a flute player and also a member of the same military band. He and Terri quickly became best friends, fell in love and were married two years later (Copenhagen, Denmark; 1979). The Burnett's have two children who are now adults: a son, Micah (b. 1980); and a daughter, Ellen (b. 1982). They have two grandchildren: a grandson, Ethan (b. 2000); and a granddaughter, Ariana (b. 2002).
Subsequently, and over the course of a 22-year military career, Burnett rose to positions of musical responsibility, senior band management, and administrative leadership. He received numerous awards for various achievements (Defense Meritorious Service Medal, 1992; Army Meritorious Service Medal, 1992, 1996; Army Commendation Medal, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1990; Army Achievement Medal, 1986; Army Good Conduct Medal, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1992, 1995).
Burnett also served with military bands at various levels within the structure of the program. He served in special assignments, training band assignments, and tactical band assignments as well. These diverse experiences proved to serve him well as a leader in the Army Bands Career Program. Some of Burnett's numerous military music career highlights include: Featured alto saxophone soloist with the Hof Symphony Orchestra (Germany) during their performances of Rolf Liebermann's twelve tone composition, "Concerto for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra" (Hauptkoncert, 1979); hand-selected for the Army woodwind musician position with the NATO Band (Italy, 1990), as one of two-total US Army musicians in the entire organization; hand-selected for assignment as the First Sergeant of the Army Student Musician Company at the Armed Forces School of Music (1992); participated in Army Band Policy Video Conference (1995) to shape future policy; was a performing musician with both, the Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Concert and Jazz Bands for numerous concerts, clinics, and school recitals; and thousands of live performances during numerous tours throughout significant portions of the United States, western Europe, the Mediterranean, and northern Africa.
As a military band Staff Arranger, some of his original music and band arrangements have been performed before a variety of audiences, including various political leaders, and even for a program series on Italian RAI Television ("BIG", 1991). During his last year with military bands, Burnett was awarded the only "Five Star Award of Merit" for that year, by the National Federation of Music Clubs, for his own original big band jazz composition, "Daedalus" (Parade of American Music, 1995). While in service, he continued his developed habit of practicing for hours each day, and was also able to study privately with many fine teachers at the university-level.
Burnett studied woodwinds with Dr. Frank Sidorfsky (Kansas State University, 1975); Paul DeMarinis (Webster University, 1996); and, with the professional saxophonist, Jerry Greene (co-author "Patterns For Jazz", 1996). He studied composition and arranging under O'tress L. Tandy (Joseph Schillinger System of Musical Composition, 1983-1985); Charles S. Clarke (Dick Grove's Arranging Concepts Complete, 1982-1983); and independently through correspondence from the Berklee College of Music (arranging course, 1978).
Burnett also voluntarily attended and graduated with honors from the "Army Band Group Leader" (1977) and the "Army Enlisted Bandleader" (1982) programs that were once offered at the Armed Forces School of Music at Norfolk, Virginia. These were advanced musician course programs, based upon preparing bandleaders via an intensive and almost music-exclusive syllabus content that was summarily delivered over a 6-month period. A career with military bands also allowed Burnett to mature as a person and support his family, along with his own continual growth and development as a performing musician, composer, arranger, and music instructor. Artist Outreach and Music Clinician activities remain a vital aspect of Burnett's professional career.
Primarily known as Chris Burnett, he is an emerging and mature jazz artist who developed his professional skills while actively performing and arranging music for over 22 years with US military bands (1974-1996).
Burnett joined the artist roster of 'ASR Records in 2002, and also serves as a staff arranger for the label. 'ASR Records was founded in 1995 by Kansas City jazz legend Ahmad Alaadeen, along with Victoria Scott Dunfee, as a means to develop deserving jazz talent based in the mid-western area of the United States and outside of the established loop of the New York jazz scene.
Burnett's original music can also be heard on various music CD compilation samplers, jazz radio broadcasts as far as the Ukraine, and in other music licensing situations. His self-developed official website introduces visitors to all aspects of his current professional activities, highlights significant aspects of his already extensive professional background, while also amplifying the real and unlimited potential that lies ahead for this emerging jazz artist.
He has taught privately since 1983 and also served at the University of Missouri-Rolla (www.umr.edu) as the director of jazz studies from 1983-2001.
Burnett first assumed this adjunct position during his off-duty hours while also still in military service.
Recordings, Broadcasts, Films:
Hof Symphony Orchestra: Main Concert (Hauptkoncert) (1979); 399th Army Band: Essayons (1995); Time Flies (1999); about 200 hours of recorded live concert performances from various shows and tours with the First US Army Band, Fort Meade, Maryland (1980-82); about 6 hours of audio and video recorded school recital performance at Armed Forces School of Music, Norfolk, Virginia (1982);
over 2500 hours of recorded live concert performances from various shows and tours with the 399th Army Band, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (1983-90); over 20 hours of recorded live concert performances from various shows and tours with the NATO Jazz Ensemble, Naples, Italy; also includes television and radio broadcasts (1990-92); about 20 hours of audio and video recorded faculty ensemble concerts and school recital performance at Armed Forces School of Music, Norfolk, Virginia (1992-93); over 250 hours of recorded live concert performances from various shows and tours with the 399th Army Band, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (1993-1996)